A fishing trawler that was converted into a cargo boat was suspected of smuggling contraband marine diesel oil, when Libyan rebel militias were called in to place the vessel under arrest.
According to MaltaToday, the M/V Triva 1 was held captive on 2 November 2012 by armed militias on request by the Khoms port authorities, after they suspected that the boat was smuggling diesel oil as well as other consumer goods.
The ordeal lasted 22 days because the Triva’s crew did not have any ship documents or cargo manifest. Their documentation was secured later with the involvement of the Maltese government in the matter, which negotiated their release.
However, there are conflicting versions as to what actually happened.
Sources close to the crew suggest they were held hostage in an act of extra-judicial detention, and the Triva’s agent in Tripoli claimed with MaltaToday that the boat actually obtained permission from Khoms port control to supply 40 metric tonnes of gasoil to the M/V Al Hurreya and M/V Victoria off port limits on 2 November.
However, MaltaToday is informed that the Khoms port control alerted the local militias to intercept the boat. The militias boarded the boat to find two containers and a chocolate consignment inside the engine room, which the crew claimed were headed for Zwara.
One source at the Khoms port control told MaltaToday that the militias suspected a possible smuggling operation of marine diesel oil and general order, because they found no cargo manifest on board. “They had no cargo manifesto, and no proof that the diesel and general order they were supplying originated from Malta,” the source said.
The men were subsequently kept under arrest at the port of Khoms, 120kms to the east of the Libyan capital, and their radio and radar equipment was disconnected. Claims of ransom being asked for their release are as yet unverified, although MaltaToday spoke to witnesses who say 3,000 Libyan dinars were paid in court fines for their release.